Theft from cars down but commonsense still needed

Theft from cars down but commonsense still needed

The number of thefts from cars has dropped in the last decade but common sense is still needed by drivers says an automotive insurer.

More than one-third of Kiwis say they leave valuable possessions in their car that are vulnerable to opportunistic thieves, says an AA Insurance survey.

The 2014 AA Insurance Drivers Index, which interviewed 1,000 Kiwi drivers aged 18+ years online, found that 38% of respondents admitted they sometimes leave items such as laptops, iPods, GPS, bags or other valuables in their parked car.

Younger drivers were more likely to leave their gear behind, with more than half of all 18-24 year olds (52 per cent) saying they did this.

“If you leave valuable possessions visible in the car, you are providing a fast and simple way for thieves to do their own kind of Christmas shopping,” says AA Insurance customer relations manager Amelia Macandrew.

According to claims data for the 12 months until 31 October, AA Insurance paid out more than $810,000 for thefts from car claims, with an average of $1700 per claim. These were comparable to last year’s figures.

“Our most common claims are personal items such as clothing, makeup and handbags, followed by mobile phones, then laptops and iPads,” says Macandrew. “Although at this time of year it’s not unusual for Christmas shopping, travel items, and even groceries to be stolen.”

While having your belongings stolen from your car is distressing, it’s encouraging to know that the number of these types of recorded offences has decreased by more than 24,200 over the past nine years.

New Zealand Police crime statistics report that there were 28,761 “theft-ex-cars” (theft of property from a car but not the car itself) in 2013/2014, compared to 52,997 in 2005/2006.

Theft from cars made up 12.4% of all crimes a decade ago, but has now dropped to only 8.1%.

Most thefts are opportunistic and are often committed while drivers have left their cars for a short time. One customer had taken her dog for a walk along the beach. An hour later she returned to find the driver’s side door open and more than $5,000 worth of contents taken including her mobile, camera, laptop, and personal items like cosmetics, sunglasses and hair straighteners.

“We often forget that the items we regularly carry with us can add up to hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars”, says Macandrew. “If you were carrying the equivalent amount in cash, you’d likely do your best to protect it from being stolen. Yet we’re not as vigilant when it comes to looking after our everyday items that are often valuable and sentimental, like irreplaceable images on our phone.

“Our key message to Kiwis this holiday season is to keep these important possessions out of sight or, better yet, take them with you. If you put your possessions at significant risk, you could jeopardise your claim from being accepted.”

Tips for preventing car break-ins from AA Insurance:

  • Lock your car, no matter where it’s parked and keep your keys with you – 15 per cent of survey respondents admitted they don’t always lock their car, such as when they’re at home or at the service station.
  • Don’t display your belongings. If you need to leave items in the car then keep them in the boot.
  • Take valuables (eg wallet, mobile, iPods) with you – don’t leave in the glove box or under a seat.
  • Park in busy, open, well-lit areas. Use an attended, secure parking building if you can.
  • Remove the detachable faceplate of your stereo, GPS cradle and mobile charger.
  • Tell your neighbours if your car has been broken into – thieves often target cars in the same street.
  • Install additional security to your car such as an alarm, or immobiliser.
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